Davidson River Trail, Pisgah National Forest

This short, little trail from Cove Creek to the State Fish Hatchery is often overlooked, but it will take you to some of the most gnarly whitewater on Davidson River. The trail is simple. It’s just a straight 1.1 mile shot from one end to the other, and then back. Ah, but have you ever seen a two-tiered trail? If you promise to be very, very careful on the river...

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Sycamore Cove Trail, Pisgah National Forest

Essentially a loop trail (the two ends are about 200 yards apart on Hwy 276), Sycamore Cove is a great hike for the entire family. It’s relatively easy, with only about 600 feet of elevation change, and it’s a delightful four-season hike that is a great way to start your day. The trail initially follows picturesque Starnes Branch amidst large hemlock and...

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Forest Road Connector of Caney Bottom and Daniel Ridge Trails, Pisgah National Forest

The U.S. Forest Service is the greatest road builder in the world. Oft times, those forest service roads come in handy for hikers to get from one ridge to another, from one creek drainage to another, or simply from one trail to another. That’s the case with Forest Road 225 in Pisgah National Forest. FR225 tips the Caney Bottom and Cove Creek Trails on its eastern...

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Scout Camp Loop on Art Loeb Trail and Little East Fork Trail, Shining Rock Wilderness

Backcountry wilderness. If you really want to get a taste, then this hike is for you. Starting at the remote Camp Daniel Boone, the northern terminus of the Art Loeb Trail enters Shining Rock Wilderness immediately. As you begin the nearly 2,000′ ascent to Deep Gap, on the southern shoulder of Cold Mountain, you will cross numerous streams as you hike through...

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Ivestor Gap Trail to Little East Fork Trail, Shining Rock Wilderness

When the Blue Ridge Parkway reopens each year in early spring, it is great to get back into the high country at milepost 420. That means the Black Balsam area and Shining Rock Wilderness. An oft overlooked trail on the west side of the wilderness is Little East Fork, a twisty path that follows the Little East Fork of the Pigeon River from Shining Rock Gap to the Daniel...

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Buck Spring Trail to Pisgah Inn, Pisgah National Forest

There’s a trail from Scenic Hwy 276 that parallels the Blue Ridge Parkway as it winds around 10 ridges and makes 13 easy stream crossings on its way to the Pisgah Inn on the Parkway. Buck Spring Trail eventually ends up at the site of the former hunting lodge of George W. Vanderbilt II, the father of Pisgah National Forest. In the spring this trail is alive with...

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Graveyard Fields Waterfalls, Blue Ridge Parkway

Graveyard Fields is an anomaly — a high mountain meadow and bog surrounded by 6,000 foot mountain peaks. The wide-open spaces found at Graveyard Fields are a rarity, an exception in the otherwise lush and densely forested slopes of Pisgah National Forest and Shining Rock Wilderness. Popular with locals and tourists alike, no trip to the high country of Western...

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Big Bald Mountain on Appalachian Trail, Cherokee National Forest

Northeast of Mars Hill, NC, the Big Bald Range straddles the Tennesssee/North Carolina border and marks the boundary between Pisgah and Cherokee National Forests. The Appalachian Trail (AT) follows the state line, as it does for nearly all its length between these two states. The destination for this hike is 5,516 foot Big Bald Mountain, another of the grassy balds that...

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Pink Beds Loop, Pisgah National Forest

Peaceful. If I were to think of a single word to describe the Pink Beds Loop Trail, that would be it. Peaceful. Located in a high valley in the Cradle of Forestry, Pink Beds is surrounded by the tall mountains and lush woodlands of Pisgah National Forest. Home to rare mountain bogs, unique vegetation, and unusual wildlife, this area is ideal for those who like to explore...

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Appalachian Trail from Beauty Spot to Unaka Mountain, Tennessee

High above the community of Erwin, Tennessee, the Appalachian Trail follows the North Carolina / Tennessee state line through the Unaka Range. From a grassy bald ridge with the appropriate name Beauty Spot, to the summit of 5,184′ Unaka Mountain, the trail winds northeasterly for a 4-mile section through a continuously changing ecology. Stand on the bald with...

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Moore Cove Trail and Falls, Pisgah National Forest

This short hike is family friendly, including even toddlers. The Moore Cove Trail leads you 0.7 mile to Moore Cove Falls, a 50-foot free-fall over a cave-like outcropping. As long as you’re careful, you can get in behind this waterfall and peer at the forest through the cascade. Hey, on a hot day it makes a great refreshing shower. In season, you may discover a...

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Big Creek Trail on Little Pisgah Ridge, Pisgah National Forest

Looking to do some ridge hiking down, down, down from the Blue Ridge Parkway into Pisgah National Forest? Overlooking North Mills River, the Little Pisgah Ridge starts at 4,800′, then drops down into the Big Creek drainage some 2,100 feet below. Catch your views of the mountains on the Parkway before you start because this is a heavily forested hike that instead...

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Appalachian Trail on Grassy Ridge, Roan Highlands

Located along the North Carolina/Tennessee state line, and where Pisgah and Cherokee National Forests merge, Grassy Ridge in the Roan Highlands is the longest stretch of grassy balds in the Appalachian Mountains. The Appalachian Trail navigates this stunning ridge, hopping from Carvers Gap to Round Bald to Jane Bald, and on to the 6,169 foot Grassy Ridge Bald. The...

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Foster Creek Conservation Easement, North Mills River

Sometimes even the most benign little trail can be filled with wondrous surprises. Nestled in a small valley between Bryson and Caney Mountains in North Mills River, North Carolina, and surrounded by Pisgah National Forest, the Foster Creek conservation easement and trail is just such a place. Barely a mile in length, and nearly flat, this four-season trail is ideal for...

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Appalachian Trail to Max Patch and Buckeye Ridge

Standing guard along the state line, Max Patch Mountain is a grassy bald with fabulous panoramic views of the surrounding North Carolina and Tennessee Great Smoky Mountains. Oh, and by the way, the celebrated Appalachian Trail crosses its 4,629 foot summit. So far as Southern Appalachian summits go, this one is moderately short and easy, but you can make a day of it by...

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Mountains to Sea Trail to Fork Ridge, Middle Prong Wilderness

Back to Rough Butt Bald Overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway, and another visit to the Mountains to Sea Trail. The MST follows, or remains close to the Parkway through much of Western North Carolina, so there are a number of easily accessible jumping off points that head into the backcountry. Middle Prong Wilderness was designated in 1984 and spans rugged high-elevation...

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Funneltop Mountain and Squirrel Gap to South Mills River, Pisgah National Forest

Southeast of the Cradle of Forestry National Historical Site is a remote area of Pisgah National Forest with trails that will take you along ridge lines with views of the Blue Ridge Parkway and Looking Glass Rock, then follow creeks and streams as they tumble down the mountains to the western end of South Mills River. You will encounter names like Squirrel Gap, Glady...

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Cat Gap Loop to Cedar Rock, Pisgah National Forest

Cedar Rock is one of several granite pluton monoliths found in the Davidson River area of Pisgah National Forest. More difficult to get to than its nearby brethren, Looking Glass and John Rock, Cedar Rock has outstanding long distance views from both the east and west sides of its summit. You will have to work to get there, climbing nearly 1,700 feet from the valley...

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Cat Gap Trail to Cedar Rock Falls and Long Branch, Pisgah National Forest

There is a series of waterfalls not far from the Pisgah Center for Wildlife Education and State Fish Hatchery on Forest Road 475. Collectively known as Cedar Rock Falls, they carry Cedar Rock Creek on its plunge down the mountain to Davidson River. Access to these falls and the wetlands beyond is via the Cat Gap Trail, a jumping off connector trail for many of the...

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Pressley Cove and Maxwell Cove Trails, Pisgah National Forest

Perhaps you’re looking for a short hike that will really stretch your legs and get your heart pounding. Then you may want to consider the Pressley Cove/Maxwell Cove loop that is not too far from the Pisgah Ranger District headquarters. You’ll climb more than 1,400 feet in just a little over a mile through a beautiful poplar, oak and beech one-age forest....

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Daniel Ridge Loop Trail, Pisgah National Forest

One of many trails found off Forest Road 475 in the Pisgah Ranger District near the State Fish Hatchery, Daniel Ridge Loop is a beautiful 5-miler that takes you near the headwaters of Davidson River. As you climb the ridge you’ll have views of the Looking Glass and Cedar Rock plutons on the south side, and drainage off four ridges into Davidson River on the north...

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Fletcher Creek and Middle Fork Trails, Pisgah National Forest

North Mills River Recreation Area in Pisgah National Forest, along with its brother at South Mills River, has a rich and varied trail system. Among them, Fletcher Creek is a typical streamside trail that passes an old beaver pond, thick forest of hardwood and hemlock, several grassy meadows and a number of log bridge crossings over Fletcher Creek, Spencer Branch and...

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Mountains to Sea Trail Over Green Knob, Blue Ridge Parkway

Quite frequently in winter, the Blue Ridge Parkway will be closed for snow and ice. Not great fun for those who wish to drive along the beautiful ridges. Ah — but it’s the perfect time for hikers to get out on the trails that parallel the Parkway — like the Mountains to Sea. Between Pigeon Gap and Bennett Gap at miles 412-414 the Mountains to Sea Trail...

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Ivestor Gap Trail and Fork Mountain Trail to Birdstand Mountain, Pisgah National Forest

The Black Balsam area of Pisgah National Forest is surrounded by Middle Prong Wilderness on the west, and Shining Rock Wilderness on the east. Some of the best hiking found in Western North Carolina lies in this high country just north of the Blue Ridge Parkway. At the end of Black Balsam Road at milepost 420 on the Parkway, the Ivestor Gap Trail will take you deep into...

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Mountains to Sea Trail to Green Mountain Trail, Middle Prong Wilderness

Between mileposts 423 and 424 on the Blue Ridge Parkway, Scenic Hwy 215 crosses at Beech Gap. If you head about 1/4 mile north on 215, the famous Mountains to Sea Trail crosses from the Black Balsam area into Middle Prong Wilderness. The MtS winds through an ever-changing forest that runs the gamut of evergreens found in the high country of Western North Carolina. Past...

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Buckhorn Gap Trail to Twin Falls, Pisgah National Forest

Just southeast of the Cradle of Forestry in Pisgah National Forest lies the Avery Creek area, a beautiful hardwood forest with plenty of water and a hidden pair of waterfalls known as Twin Falls. Access to the falls is via the Buckhorn Gap Trail, an easy to moderate track that first follows Avery Creek, then turns north alongside Henry Branch. The forest management work...

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Pilot Rock Trail, Pisgah National Forest

Pilot Rock is another of the granite plutons found in the Pisgah Ranger District of Pisgah National Forest. Not as spectacular as it’s more famous cousin, Looking Glass Rock, Pilot still offers remarkable views of the Blue Ridge Parkway and national forest, including the Cradle of Forestry National Historical Site. It’s a short mile climb of almost 700 feet...

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Wilson Creek Trail, Pisgah National Forest

Think of Wilson Creek as Linville Gorge lite. A long, rugged wilderness gorge running from the nearly 6000′ mountain peaks at its north, Wilson Creek shares many similarities with its bigger brother to the west. Wilson Creek was named a National Wild and Scenic River in August, 2000. The gorge area is a haven for recreation including hiking of course, but also fun...

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Harper Creek Falls, Wilson Creek Wild and Scenic River, Pisgah National Forest

One of the highlights of the Wilson Creek Wild and Scenic River area is Harper Creek Falls. Located in the Grandfather Mountain Ranger District of Pisgah National Forest, this three-tiered falls is a fun place to swim, slide and dive — but the rugged terrain makes for a difficult and dangerous access. The Harper Creek Trail is easy enough. With the exception of a...

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Cat Gap Trail to John Rock, Pisgah National Forest

The always popular Cat Gap Loop Trail is a jumping off point for many great hikes within the Davidson River area of Pisgah National Forest. Included among them is the picturesque John Rock, one of the area’s plutons that stand over the recreation area. With views of the Fish Hatchery, Looking Glass Rock, Pilot Mountain and the ridges that run to Graveyard Fields,...

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Bad Fork Trail, North Mills River, Pisgah National Forest

Another of the myriad of ridge and gap trails from North Mills River to the Blue Ridge Parkway. Bad Fork Trail follows its namesake creek from Forest Road 5000 to Bent Creek Gap at mile 400 on the Parkway. This is a four mile round trip that can be extended by continuing on the Mountains to Sea Trail on the north side of the Parkway. Only moderately steep, this is a nice...

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North Slope Connector to Art Loeb Trail, Pisgah National Forest

Section 1 of the Art Loeb Trail is in Pisgah National Forest near Brevard, NC overlooking the Davidson River Recreation Area. The North Slope Trail is a loop contained within the boundary created by the Art Loeb and the river. Between the two trails is a connector. Combining the two via the connector makes an 8-mile loop that takes in a large portion of the forest above...

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